Longing for someone is different from missing them. Missing is felt by the mind, and longing is endured by the totality of one's being.
As I lie here, my body feels empty for a moment -- almost lifeless. I pull my stomach inward and wonder if I might feel hunger. I think I do, but it isn't coming from my stomach. I close my eyes and breathe in, trying to imagine smells my mind cannot create, and only one being can produce. I look down at my hands and am surprised by how fragile and naked they appear, touching one another in a sort of sad attempt at comfort. One's mind plays no role in the devastating way the sounds of the heart muffle all perceptions of reality and reason when longing for the love of another.
A state of longing places one love at the top of one's hierarchy of needs. Love is the quench for thirst, the nutrients needed to prevent starvation, and the shelter from the harshness of this world. We long for it because it satisfies a desire when no other entity could possibly suffice.
We can't often name longing. We call it sadness, dependence or pain -- when actually, it is far more. The existence of longing means that we've encountered something magical enough to long for. It means that losing or being without someone is a deep tragedy, due to the light that person possessed in our lives.
We long for a few main types of love: that for the living, either far away or gone, and that for the dead -- close, but gone.
When you long for the living but far, you count the seconds until the longing ends. You imagine your face pressed up against their skin in your next heavily anticipated embrace. You wonder if their hair got longer or if their voice will still sound exactly the same as you recall when you replay their words in your mind. You long for the day you'll never have to walk without them at your side, and that thought brings a little peace to your starving soul.
Longing for the living and the gone has to do with the people we've lost in life to changing hearts and circumstances. It's the past lovers, broken friendships and estranged family members. It's the people you still want to know somewhere in your heart, but understand you can never have again. This longing is heartbreaking in the sense that you long to know what their life is like without you. You wonder what jokes they tell now, or if they fold their slices of pizza. You long to know if any part of them still longs to know you, and that unanswered question is the hardest part.
The last way we long, for those no longer of this world, is so deep and wretched it can destroy us. The reason is that death takes away the one element the two other kinds of longing retain: hope. It eliminates that chance that you can ever end the longing on this Earth. It makes you live by memories and store them safely in your heart, guarded by iron fences. It makes you chase after the longings you can still reach. It makes you understand why we long to begin with.
We long for the people who changed our hearts. We long because we found love deep enough to take a piece of us away in its absence. We long because we are alive, and if we've experienced something special enough to cut us to our core, then we are living the way we were meant to after all.
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